The Problem of (Jewish) Positive Thinking

The belief that we can manifest good wishes and look inwards to find God has a long history in the United States. Its influence has left many of the nation’s Jews deluded.

October 13, 2020 | Tara Isabella Burton
About the author: Tara Isabella Burton is the author of Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World. A contributing editor at American Purpose and a columnist for Religion News Service, she holds a doctorate in theology from Trinity College, Oxford.
This is a response to How America's Idealism Drained Its Jews of Their Resilience, originally published in Mosaic in October 2020


Daniel Gordis is right to cite the American tradition of optimism as a key to understanding the difference in mentality, and what he calls attitudes of “resilience,” between America’s liberal Jewish denominations, on the one hand, and Orthodox and Israeli Jews, on the other. He is right, too, to identify the quintessentially American “assumption that nature’s providence would always satisfy American desires, coupled to a relative absence of concern about security,” which is, as he notes, “precisely the opposite sensibility of that which is formed by traditional Jewish devotion.”

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